Lamin Sanneh, pioneering historian who studied Christianity’s spread, dies at 76Historians in the News
tags: Yale, Christianity, obituary
Lamin Sanneh, a Yale Divinity School professor who was raised a Muslim, converted to Christianity and became a leading scholar of both religions, most notably as a pioneer in the study of Christianity’s transformation from a Western institution into a world-spanning faith, died Jan. 6 at a hospital in New Haven, Conn. He was 76.
The cause was complications from a stroke, said his son Kelefa Sanneh, a staff writer at the New Yorker.
Raised in the tiny West African nation of the Gambia, Dr. Sanneh had a dignified, even regal bearing that betrayed his royal lineage. He traced his ancestry to the rulers of Kaabu, a successor state of the Mali Empire, although by the time he was born that empire had given way to years of British colonial rule.
While his father made a modest living working for the British government, Dr. Sanneh was “summoned from the margin,” as he put it in the title of his 2012 autobiography, pulled by God or fate or sheer force of will from a Gambian backwater to college in the United States, and later to graduate school in Britain and teaching posts at Harvard and Yale.